Capitalizing on the Experience Economy

Becky McCray over at Small Biz Survival has an awesome post about the progression of engagement: the act of increasing value by selling an experience rather than a commodity. This idea was introduced to me several years ago by my mentor, Jack Ruff (another Ruff-ian post!) as we examined the evolution of the American economy from one based in agriculture (and commodity driven) to one rooted in experiences. We used the methodology found within the experience economy as a means to teach rural communities and businesses the value a unique experience has to individuals. We did this to help both capitalize on a market that was ripe for development in rural Nebraska.

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What lessons can we learn from Becky?  Progressive and more intensive levels of engagement within a particular experience can increase the financial rewards for a prospective business considerably.  Consider Becky’s example:

“At the bottom level, you offer a commodity, like fresh milk. Milk is available all over, and most people buy it where ever it is convenient.  Up one step, you have an asset, like ice cream made from that milk.  Another step up is an experience, like serving that ice cream in your own ice cream parlor.  There is still one more level. Step up again, and you can transform that experience into a renewal. At this level, you and the customer work together to change something, like buying ice cream because you know it supports the only working dairy that makes its own ice cream in North Dakota.”

I think of this opportunity when I enjoy locally sourced lamb I purchased from the Melias here in Ord.  After having the lamb slaughtered, I casually posted on Facebook that I was extremely pleased with both the meat and the transaction, which in turn has created interest at Sandstone Grill in Burwell to source meat locally for a potential menu item.  Will it happen?  I’m not sure, but the fact that a casual Facebook comment created the *potential* for a financial windfall for both the Melias AND Sandstone Grill is proof to me.

I also see opportunity when we have amazing local businesses like Elyria Gardens that stages one heck of a story in rural Nebraska:  you have the potential to savor a soil-to-plate dining experiences and take some of that experience home with you from their greenhouses.  Those business models are spring up all over Nebraska, and providing a unique opportunity for rural communities and rural businesses to capitalize on a consumer market that is moving more toward premium food products produced by farmers they know.  When you add a level like Elyria Gardens has with their cafe or “Around the World” dining occasions or by buying Chef Roy’s sauces, you’re participating in the experience economy.

Will this save rural America?  Who knows, but what I do know is that the experience economy offers one heckuva opportunity for rural America to prosper in a way it hasn’t in over a century.

2 Responses to “Capitalizing on the Experience Economy”

  1. Becky McCray Says:

    I like the way you’ve carried this idea forward. Local food is a natural example. Tourism, especially interactive and hands-on events, can also take this approach. I really think it goes beyond just the experience. When your customers know they are helping change something for the better, it connects more deeply with them.

  2. ord-editor Says:

    Agreed 100% and thank you for the response! We’ve noticed the brand loyalty just to a tourism event called Junk Jaunt. Our community was busy Friday through Sunday just because people wanted a chance to find treasure across the Loup Valley, but also because they’re willing to spend money on an experience they can’t get anywhere else. They also know they’re contributing to the long-term success of our community as a whole.

    Great to hear from you!

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