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Brian Solis

Engage or Disappear

Anyone who is interested in the future of business, no matter if you're a consumer or in marketing, will want to pick up What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences by Brian Solis. The future of business is here, and if you're a consumer, then you'll be happy with what Solis discusses in this book. If you're a marketer, you just might be scared to death, if you're not already changing the way you work.

What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences by Brian Solis is not your typical business book. The look and feel of the book is very different, and ties in nicely with the concepts and ideas presented in it. The book uses infographics and illustrations, as well as text to diagnose the changing landscape of business and the role shared experience will play in a new age of consumerism. Solis studied UX (User Experience) to create what he calls an "analog app," basing the book on a virtual slider that helps readers navigate the contents of the book, similar to the way an app works. It has a table of contents, but they appear at the beginning of each chapter, with the highlight sliding to the current chapter giving the book an almost e-book feel. Each chapter also opens with a quote from successful businesspeople, authors, and thinkers. Infographics and cartoons from Hugh MacLeod, graphic artist at GapingVoid, are presented throughout to illustrate key points in the text. The style and appearance is such that you would expect to find it on a table, in the waiting area of some business. The author describes it as a visual presentation that combines business and design to create intended experiences.

The subtitle of the book is “Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences.” Consumers have become increasingly connected and informed, no longer relying as much on traditional sources, such as Google or websites. Now, when they begin a discovery process or look to make an informed decision, they are using networks, friends or apps, for assistance or direction.

It’s the shared experiences that define what they do next.

As a business, you have to look at the people who are sharing their experiences about your business, product or service and why you should intentionally design those experiences.

The story unfolds with a look at how top companies have continued to have shorter lifespans. The list of companies that have not survived is long: Borders, Compaq, Kodak, LIFE, Tower Records, Woolworth . . . The list goes on. All of these companies were not able to survive in the changing economic climate and it appears, that at the core of Solis' book, is his belief that: "The experience people have with your product, your company or your representatives, define the brand through the expressions they share. Your work must focus on expressions, not impressions."

In the traditional way of marketing, a company has a massive mailing list and they would send out print materials, email blasts and work with the advertising department to buy print and TV ads. Today, consumers are talking about products on their own, on social platforms. When they want a recommendation for a book, restaurant, service, etc., they reach out to their friends and family on Facebook or Twitter. And whatever information they have on the subject, that's how a brand is going to be relevant, or not.

The story then follows with changes in digital commerce, giving a new strength to customers, and as Mr. Solis describes it, the rise of Generation C(ustomer). “Gen C’ers are not bound by age; they’re not defined by income, ethnicity, or education, either. They live and breathe in social networks and use mobile devices, as their windows to the world. They don’t learn or make decisions like their traditional counterparts. Gen C lives a digital lifestyle, and unites demographics around interests and behavior” states Solis.

Mr. Solis offers recommendations on how to align business objectives and strategies, based on Gen C. In particular, he points out: “Time to resolution, cost per engagement, NPS, wait time … these are metrics of an aging era. Advocacy, referrals, positive endorsements, reviews and loyalty; these are the metrics that can be directly linked to social customer service among many other tangible outcomes, including return on investment (ROI).”

A great example that Solis gives in his book is Burberry's social transformation. Burberry has been around for 150 years and Angela Ahrendts, Burberry CEO, made a decision that revolutionized how Burberry works as a company, leveraging digital and social platforms. Ahrendts explained that: "We had a vision, to be the first company that was fully digital end-to-end. The experience would be that a customer has total access to Burberry, across any device, anywhere. They get exactly the same feeling of the brand and feeling of the culture, regardless of how, when and where they were accessing the brand. Everyone can come to Burberry World and understand the journey and mission that Burberry is on." Ahrendts' statement is bold and visionary. Because of new technology, change in business is happening faster than corporations can adapt. The opportunity here is to engage people on a human level. Companies cannot simply throw up a Facebook page and then boast that they have thousands of "likes." That doesn't mean anything and doesn't translate to good strategy. No, what matters is that corporations are listening to their customers and interacting with them in real time. The experience that customers are having is rewarding to them, and taking place in various digital environments. Change is here now, and Solis's book lays out a solid plan for how to move forward, so that we can also be nimble and adapt, like Burberry.

The latter chapters look at his view of the transformation of the classic marketing funnel into four moments of truth that businesses go through during digital shared experience, after initial awareness of a product:

  1. The Zero Moment of Truth (a recount of Google’s study of this area) – the moments before people buy, where impressions are formed, based on what people have searched for
  2. The First Moment of Truth – the consideration to purchase, based on what they think when they see your product, even perhaps before they read the words describing the product
  3. The Second Moment of Truth – the experience of using the product across all their senses, as well as how the vendor company supports them in their efforts
  4. The Ultimate Moment of Truth – the step that leads to that customer to share their experience with the next potential customer

Procter and Gamble created a division around the first moment of truth. Your business would benefit from having that type of person or group in each division that handles each moment of truth.

The continuing chapters focus on more strategies to understand evolving social commerce, such as the dynamic customer journey, the psychology of engagement, and the user experience.

The book offers suggestions on how to reach customer's in a world where they may know about your business long before you know anything about them. In principle, the lessons are probably most applicable in business to consumer marketing, but we'll probably see more need for these approaches in Business to Business marketing as well.

"Social media sparks a revelation in us, that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas, we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change."

"Information overload is a symptom of our desire to not focus on what's important. It is a choice."

"Businesses must recognize that a customer’s voice is now more powerful than ever before. Whether Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, review sites, product forums, blogs, or Pinterest, your customers are sharing their experiences on platforms, where audiences can find out, what others are saying about you."

"An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way, that creates a memorable event."

Brian Solis (1970) is a digital analyst, speaker and author. He is a principal analyst studying disruptive technology and its impact on business at the Altimeter Group, a research firm acquired by Prophet, a global brand management consultancy, in 2015. Solis publishes annual industry reports that track technology and business trends, and offer change management direction to companies. The author of several books discussing digital marketing, evolving business models, customer experience and brand innovation, Solis shares his research and insights as a frequent keynote speaker at technology, business and creativity events. His work is credited with influencing the early digital and social marketing landscape. Most notably, he is known for developing the Conversation Prism, “a visual map of the social media landscape,” in 2008. His published work includes: Putting the Public Back in Public Relations (with Deirdre K. Breakenridge) (2009), Engage!: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web (2011), The End of Business As Usual (2011), What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (2013) and X: The Experience When Business Meets Design (2015).